How to Legally Bring Money to the US?
While planning for traveling to the US, or anywhere, planning how to bring with money should be an important part that visitors consider. When it comes to bringing along money when traveling internationally, there are two main steps involved: first, the customs process in the visitor’s country of origin and second, the customs process of the destination country. In this article we specifically discuss the customs system in the United States.
Regarding the customs process in one’s original country, one should first figure out whether there is any limit on the exchange or transfer of foreign currency, or other forms of money, abroad by the laws or regulations of one’s country of origin. If there is no such limit, you can feel free to take money with you out of your own country. However, if there are certain limits regarding the exchange or transfer of money abroad, you should always obey such regulations and follow all formalities accordingly. China is one country that restricts the transfer of foreign currency abroad. For example, Chinese laws restrict an individual to transferring no more than 50,000 US dollars abroad annually, and an individual must apply for governmental approval if he/she wants to bring more than 5,000 US dollars of cash abroad.
Once visitors have cleared their country of origin’s customs process, after hours of traveling, they will encounter the customs process of the United States. The US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) organization upholds several regulations regarding the money that visitors bring in with them, and conducts examinations concerning this matter. Generally speaking, visitors are responsible for reporting the amount of money that they bring with them if it exceeds the amount of $10,000. Regarding this regulation, the amount of money refers to all currency and other monetary instruments that the individual may have. This includes:
However, monetary instruments do not include:
For more details, please refer to: Currency Reporting by US. Customs and Border protection.
The reporting form for brining money or monetary instruments into the US is the FinCEN Form 105 (www.fincen.gov/fin105_cmir.pdf). Usually the flight attendants will hand these out to passengers while the flight is approaching the destination. Please note that reporting money that you bring in as a visitor will not result in any tax burden, while if you fail to report such money, all you money may be confiscated by the CPB, or even worse, the violator may face fines or imprisonment.
In a case wherein all your money has been confiscated by the CPB due to a violation of the reporting system, you still have the right to explain yourself or appeal the confiscation within 30 days. If you can provide any evidence to demonstrate the legitimate source and potential usage of the money, there is a large chance that you can get the confiscated money back in whole, or in part. However, this procedure and the document preparation it entails can be complicated and time-consuming. Therefore, we strongly suggest that all visitors to the US accurately report the money that they bring in with them, even if that amount exceeds the limit of 10,000 US dollars. Occasionally a CPB officer may give you a chance to orally report the amount of money that you are bringing with you, but this is not the standard process. The visitor faces a great risk that all money could be confiscated if such a chance to report their money orally is not offered. Therefore, we strongly advise that all visitors to the US accurately report the amount of that they are bringing with them on the FinCEN Form 105.
Based on the detailed explanation given above, let’s quickly review the various methods that visitors should consider when planning on bringing money to the US.
If the required amount is rather small, visitors can consider cash as their first choice. Visitors can exchange some US dollars at their own bank or its branches, and take it with them when traveling to the US. Cash is a hassle-free method, which can sometimes be of great help to foreign visitors in emergencies. However, traveling with large amounts of cash is not recommended due to the security concerns that involves.
Traveler’s checks are also a convenient method. For example, an American Express traveler’s check can be exchanged for cash at most banks, large hotels, and at other places in the US. Compared to cash, traveler’s checks are safer since you can report the loss of a traveler’s check and void it, and also ask for emergency compensation. There is 0.5%-1% fee involved with buying traveler’s checks at the designated places in your country.
Money orders are very safe and enable you to conveniently carry large amounts of money with you. Since there is a recipient named on the money order, other people cannot cash a money order if it is lost or stolen. Generally speaking, if a visitor chooses to use a money order to carry money to the US, he/she will put their own name down as the recipient and then open an account in the US and deposit the money order. Please note, however, that it will take several days after the deposit of the money order for the money to be transferred.
Banks in many countries, including the United States, offer international credit card services to their citizens, such as MasterCard or Visa. It is suggested that one apply for an international credit card in their country of origin, and then take it with them to the US for daily use. However, please note that sometimes a problem can arise when using international credit cards online, due to issues with authentication.
Wire transfers are another safe method that we suggest to visitors if they are planning on transferring a large amount of money. A wire transfer is a money transfer between two bank accounts, and the pending period involved with such a transfer can be 1 or 2 days. To utilize a wire transfer, visitors should first make sure that they have a US bank account, or set one up, and then provide account information account such as account number, account name, swift code, bank name, address, phone number and routing number, to the transferor abroad. The bank can then finish the reporting procedure for the visitor. This is an entirely legitimate way to bring money to the US.
The two main concerns related to bringing money to the US are always safety and legality. Based on their circumstances, visitors can choose from different methods for transferring or traveling with their money, or use a combination of methods based on their individual needs.
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